The novel bacteriophage could eventually open up new ways to detect, treat or decontaminate the anthrax bacillus and its relatives that cause food poisoning. The work is published Jan. 27 in the journal PLOS One.
This shows zebras graze in Etosha National Park, Namibia. Zebras can fall victim to anthrax. The new bacteriophage virus called Tsamsa, isolated from zebra carcasses in the park, kills the anthrax bacterium.
Credit: Holly Ganz, UC Davis.
The newly-isolated Tsamsa virus is a bacteriophage that infects and kills the anthrax bacterium and close relatives that cause food poisoning. It is one of the largest bacteriophages ever discovered.
Credit: Jochen Klumpp, ETH Zurich, Switzerland.
The virus was isolated from samples collected from carcasses of zebras that died of anthrax in Etosha National Park, Namibia. The anthrax bacterium, Bacillus anthracis, forms spores that survive in soil for long periods. Zebras are infected when they pick up the spores while grazing; the bacteria multiply and when the animal dies, they form spores that return to the soil as the carcass decomposes.While anthrax is caused by a bacterium that invades and kills its animal host, bacteriophages, literally "bacteria eaters" are viruses that invade and kill bacterial hosts.
They also noticed that the new virus, named Bacillus phage Tsamsa, is unusually large, with a giant head, a long tail and a large genome, placing it among the largest known bacteriophages.
Tsamsa infects not only B. anthracis but also some closely related bacteria, including strains of Bacillus cereus, which can cause food poisoning. Sequencing the genome allowed researchers to identify the gene for lysin, an enzyme that the virus uses to kill bacterial cells, that has potential use as an antibiotic or disinfecting agent.
Bacteriophages are often highly specific to a particular strain of bacteria, and when they were first discovered in the early 20th century there was strong interest in them as antimicrobial agents. But the discovery of penicillin and other antibiotics eclipsed phage treatments in the West, although research continued in the Soviet Union.
"With growing concerns about antibiotic resistance and superbugs, people are coming back to look at phages," said Ganz said.
One advantage of bacteriophages is that because they tend to be very specific, they can potentially target only "bad" bacteria while leaving beneficial bacteria unharmed.
Ganz began the work as a postdoctoral scientist on a team led by Wayne Getz, Professor of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley and at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Sequencing of the phage genome was conducted at UC Davis after Ganz joined the laboratory of Professor Jonathan Eisen.
Ganz said that she hoped the publication of the phage's sequence information would enable other researchers to investigate further and potentially develop applications for the phage and its proteins.
"You might use it to detect the anthrax Bacillus or B. cereus; use it as an alternative to antibiotics or as part of a decontaminant," she said.
Other authors on the study are: Wayne Getz, Christina Law and Richard Calendar, UC Berkeley; Martina Schmuki, Fritz Eichenseher, Martin Loessner and Jochen Klumpp at the Institute of Food, Nutrition and Health, ETH Zurich, Switzerland; Jonas Korlach, Pacific Biosciences, Menlo Park, Calif.; and Wolfgang Beyer, University of Hohenheim, Stuttgart, Germany. The work was supported by the NIH.
Andy Fell | EurekAlert!
Nonstop Tranport of Cargo in Nanomachines
20.11.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für molekulare Zellbiologie und Genetik
Researchers find social cultures in chimpanzees
20.11.2018 | Universität Leipzig
Max Planck researchers revel the nano-structure of molecular trains and the reason for smooth transport in cellular antennas.
Moving around, sensing the extracellular environment, and signaling to other cells are important for a cell to function properly. Responsible for those tasks...
Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving "magnetic reconnection"--the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a quick but mighty explosion--in the Earth's magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.
Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. They know it exists and have documented the effects that the energy explosions can...
Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.
Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...
Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.
In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...
On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.
19.11.2018 | Event News
09.11.2018 | Event News
06.11.2018 | Event News
20.11.2018 | Life Sciences
20.11.2018 | Life Sciences
20.11.2018 | Physics and Astronomy